Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Why Seattle needs the Alaskan Way Tunnel

Seattle City Councilwoman had a guest column published yesterday in the Seattle Times (Now's not the time to cheap-out on the viaduct) in which she describes why the Alaskan Way Tunnel is a good investment:

After witnessing my colleagues on the Seattle City Council lay out money to study a "cheaper option" for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, I can't help ask: What part of "no" don't we understand? The Washington Legislature is not going to give us $2 billion simply to tear down a state highway without an equivalent replacement. Instead, legislators gave Seattle two choices to replace the viaduct: a bulkier, larger aerial structure; or a cut-and-cover tunnel.


As part of my research, I traveled to San Francisco last December to learn about the Embarcadero redevelopment, where an aerial freeway was replaced by a surface boulevard and trolley lines. There, I met with elected officials, community and environmental leaders and planner Boris Dramov, famed for his role in Embarcadero/waterfront redevelopment.

I learned a great deal, including the relationship between geography and commerce. San Francisco is seven miles square and has numerous routes through the city; Seattle is nine miles long and — in places — barely three miles wide. I learned San Francisco does not have a trade-dependent waterfront like we do in Seattle.

But what works in San Francisco — a city with multiple layers of mass transit — won't solve Seattle's problems. A shallow cut-and-cover tunnel will simply serve us better, enabling Seattle to have a park-lined pedestrian waterfront on one level with a transportation artery briskly moving traffic beneath its surface. Buses must be part of the solution.
Godden makes the excellent point that Seattle is unique and has unique problems. What works for other cities - especially bigger cities that have a stronger mass transit system - won't work here. It's worth remembering that Seattle's first high capacity transit system - Central Link Light Rail - is only 40% completed.

Here's one final excerpt that argues why the current viaduct needs to be replaced, not just torn down:
I, too, long for the pedestrian waterfront that the "no-build" forces seek. But common sense tells me — without a tunnel beneath it — that surface amenity won't exist. We would only be building a four-lane, traffic-choked, truck route on our waterfront, while packing our residential and retail streets with the thousands of cars with clouds of pollution that were displaced in the process.
Read the whole thing. This guest editorial isn't some knee jerk defense of the Alaskan Way Tunnel, it's a thoughtfully written piece that makes very compelling arguments. We have a choice: we can make a long term investment in the future of our transportation system - an investment that will be safer, cleaner, less noisy, and give us back our waterfront - or, we can cheap out.

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